words: David Marples
Forest went into this game unbeaten at home in seven matches, in stark contrast to Rotherham who have lost all four away matches this season. Chuck in the fact that the last time Rotherham beat Forest in a game of football, Doris Day was at the top of the hit parade, an easy or at least routine win for the home team was envisaged.
It was supposed to be so easy but the fact that Forest just about sneaked the three points is partly down to their own below par performance but also just as much down to Rotherham’s excellence. Manager Paul Warne felt his side deserved something from that game: "I thought we were excellent, we set up in the right way, on the counter-attack we looked really dangerous.” It’s difficult to disagree with him.
Although primarily set up to defend, the Millers sprang forward with three men on the occasions when they nicked the ball from Forest in the midfield, especially in the second half. Unlike Sheffield Wednesday, they pressed the home team high up the pitch, particularly on the occasions of Forest goal-kicks. Michael Hefele and Danny Fox were forced almost back into the corner flag in order to receive the ball as Rotherham stationed three men to close down the obvious outlets. On more than one occasion, Costel Pantilimmon was forced to try to chip a ball to the touchline high up the pitch – a strategy that didn’t bear the fruit it was hoped for the hosts.
Yet Forest were also guilty of playing a notch below the level of most other home performances. They clunked around in midfield and laboured up front. It was only really good old-fashioned persistence that finally broke the deadlock in the 86thminute, more specifically, Ben Osborn’s persistence to keep on trying to do the right things until the bitter end. His run inside and beyond the full back opened up a chasm for Joe Lolley to tease an inviting ball through. When you can turn a defender so he’s facing his own goal and draw a tackle in from behind, a penalty is the inevitable consequence.
Despite Lewis Grabban’s stuttering start he has now bagged a couple of goals in the space of four days and there are signs of an understanding building in terms of how and where to play him in from midfield. The fact that he coolly converted the penalty was a tangible reminder that he can and almost certainly will score more goals. Aitor Karanka’s substitutions played a big part in turning the game in his favour too: deployed well and at the right time.
Four points from two consecutive home games would have been considered a good return but to walk away with six and chuck in a clean sheet away at Swansea in the previous fixture and you have the makings of a very quiet but highly promising little run being built. Perhaps in the past, frustration might have got the better of Forest, manifesting itself in balls being hoisted in to a big guy up top and hoping to work something from a knock-down. The fact the deciding goal came ultimately from a defence opening through ball on the deck provides an indicator as to what this team is about and where it is heading.
Issue Ten is currently under production and should be with you by early November.